Alex Kantecki takes a look at Rickie Weeks' strong second half in 2012 and argues why the second baseman will carry it over into next season.
In my favorite keeper league, every move and every trade I made in 2012 turned into fantasy gold. My lucky streak even prompted the commissioner to recently proclaim over a night of drinks that I must have a fantasy horseshoe lodged up my ass.
No player better supports this claim more than Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, who joined my team on the last day of August via free agency. I traded away a slumping Jason Kipnis for some much needed pitching help in the form of Weeks' teammate, Yovani Gallardo, two weeks earlier, leaving me with Ben Zobrist at second and a combination of Zack Cozart and Trevor Plouffe at short. Lucky for me, Zobrist ended up gaining shortstop eligibility shortly after and -- struggling to get much from Cozart and Plouffe -- I opted to take a chance on Weeks, who was buried in free agency with a not-so-nifty .222/.330/.375 line.
So I moved Zobrist to short and put Weeks at second, who went on to record nine multi-hit games in his last 31, filling up box scores along the way. Cozart, meanwhile, missed 15 of his team's final 30 games without a single home run or steal. And while Plouffe performed better than Cozart, it came no where close to Weeks' frenzied finish. Safe to say, my gamble on an underperforming Weeks paid off.
But was it really a gamble? Weeks was dropped on August 10. At the time, he was hitting .218/.330/.383 despite coming off his best month of the season. Because Weeks' first half stats were so bad, owners probably passed on a chance to claim the second baseman for the stretch run, and it's hard to blame them, as he ended the year with an unimpressive .230/.328/.400 line. But, among second basemen, Weeks also finished third in home runs (21), ninth in runs (85), and seventh in steals (16), good/bad enough for the 17th ranked second baseman on ESPN's Player Rater.
Rickie Weeks, Post-All Star (291 at bats): .261/.343/.457, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 51 R, 10 SB
Robinson Cano, Post-All Star (295 at bats): .312/.384/.519, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 48 R, 2 SB
Comparing Weeks and the game's best second baseman, Cano, is admittedly foolish, but the stats above go a long way in demonstrating just how strong of a finish he had in 2012, as Weeks edged out Cano in runs and steals (a given), and tied him in home runs. After the All-Star Break, no second baseman, besides Weeks, had double-digits in both home runs and steals, and only Aaron Hill recorded more runs (54) and home runs (15).
Weeks' first-half blues had a lot to do with a ridiculously low BABIP of .236 in March and .189 in June (100-plus points off his career mark). His BABIP stabilized in June and July before peaking at .351 in August. With it -- along with more line drives -- came a more disciplined approach at the plate. Weeks, who struck out in 34 percent of his plate appearances in May, trimmed it down to below his career mark of 23 percent over the final three months.
Interestingly, accompanying Weeks' slow start to the year was a career high walk rate, nearly five percent higher than we're used to seeing. As the season progressed, his walk rate -- along with his strikeout rate-- returned to career normal levels, and, consequently, his BABIP and production began to look a lot like Weeks from previous years.
It's also important to note that Weeks had a severe ankle injury late in the 2011 season that cost him six weeks, and he struggled upon return. It's always possible the lingering effects of the injury played a part in his slow start to 2012. But seeing Weeks get through a full year relatively unscathed is a good sign for owners looking to invest in the second baseman for 2013.
Over the last three seasons, Weeks is averaging 23 home runs, 91 runs, 65 RBI and 12 steals. I think those are realistic expectations for next season, and I'd even bet on 15 steals. You can't expect his average to be elite, or even above-average -- he has three seasons in the .230's with over 450 plate appearances -- but if he can hit at or above his .251-career average, which I expect him to do, you'll gladly take everything else that comes with owning Weeks.
Statistics from FanGraphs.